Missouri Executions At Standstill; State May Abolish Death Penalty

February 14, 2005 – Posted at 7:42 p.m. CST

DUNKLIN COUNTY – The last person to die by lethal injection in Missouri was in October of 2003, and that's leading some to speculate that the state may be getting ready to abolish the death penalty.

Executions have come to nearly a standstill in Missouri, a sharp contrast from just three years ago when the state ranked 3rd in the number of executions it carried out. House Bill No. 74 could make capital punishment a thing of the past.

The proposed bill calls for a nine-person committee to review basic facts about the current death row investigations and it also calls for an end to executions until January 1, 2007.

"I think the one thing we need to actually protect ourselves against is the fact that we don't want to execute an innocent person, and I'm sure that's not totally impossible," said State Representative Otto Bean of the 163rd District.

Although Bean says he's not familiar with the bill yet, he doesn't think he will support it.

"I support the death penalty. I go back to the old theory of an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth," said Bean.

Supporters of the bill cite cases where modern technology, including DNA evidence, has cleared convicted death row inmates. But most folks in region 8 say if there's no doubt, there's justice.

"When you do somebody wrong like they do, I believe they should suffer and do their time, instead of getting the easy way out and be putting to sleep," said Kennett resident Mary Kenaum.

"They committed a murder, they should have the death penalty," said Perry Waltrip of Kennett.

Currently there are 55 convicted murders on Missouri's death row, seven of which have exhausted all appeals.